Washington State is hoping to improve its employee wellness programs under an ambitious plan outlined in a new executive order by Gov. Inslee.

“Preventing illness is the best way to improve health and save money on health care,” said Gov. Inslee. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to help the people of our state live longer, healthier lives.”

The state’s commitment to a healthier workforce may also be good news for taxpayers. A wellness program for King County employees included a similar focus on healthy eating and other preventive health components. It led to a $14.6 million reduction in health care spending from 2007 to 2011.

Under the governor’s order, a committee will be formed to develop a comprehensive wellness program for state employees for implementation by Jan. 1. The committee will be co-chaired by Health Care Authority Director Dorothy Teeter and Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

The steering committee will work with the Health Care Authority’s Public Employees Benefits Division (PEB) to integrate the employee wellness program with employee health insurance. Examples include a new diabetes prevention program and assistance for employees who want to quit using tobacco.

The Executive Order also directs state executive agencies to adopt and implement a food and beverage service policy by the end of 2016. They must ensure healthful food and beverages in vending machines, cafeterias, onsite retail establishments, at meetings and events and institutional food service when applicable. A priority will be placed on providing Washington-grown products whenever possible.

The Executive Order includes some exceptions: services or programs that are mandated by federal law or rules, special populations with health or religious dietary needs, Department of Veterans Affairs, Military Department, and training programs in criminal justice or parks. The nutrition portion of the order also does not extend to emergency rations during a disaster or other crisis.